Microlab SOLO7C Review

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅24-05-12
Performance - Gaming And Music

The raw technical specs of the SOLO7C's are not outstanding by any means. An output power of 110W RMS isn't much on paper when spread across two floor-standing speakers, with 10W tweeters leaving only 45W split between two large 6.5" drivers. A low-end of 55Hz for frequency range is also barely average if you compare systems with discrete subwoofers, many of which reach down to 35Hz. However listed specs are not necessarily indicative of the final result, hopefully the case for the SOLO7C's.

The Microlab SOLO7C's are designed as an accompaniment to a Home Theatre PC, suited to those using their HTPC for far more than a spot of web browsing and the like. In assessing the quality of the sound from these speakers we put them through a range of usage scenario's broadly representing expectations from, 'gaming', 'music' and Film/TV audio. At the same time we also investigated just how it was to live with the SOLO7C's day-to-day in the hopes of identifying any idiosyncrasies the system has which the potential end-user would have to overcome.

Disclaimer: The quality of audio from a consumer-level speaker is always going to be somewhat subjective; what may be near-perfect for one set of ears could be just a little off for another.

Test Set-up:

CPU: Intel Sandybridge i5-2300
Motherboard: MSI Big Band Marshal B3
Memory: 8GB RAM
Audio: On-board Audio Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC892
Graphics: AMD HD 5770 1GB Graphics

Screen:- Samsung LE32S7; also used for audio output of TV audio via 2 RCA

Output via 3.5" Jack to 2 RCA into SOLO7C 'PC' Input


Gaming

Whilst a number of games were played with the SOLO7C's as main speaker, the most time was spent with Tribes: Ascend. A free to play First Person Shooter, Tribes: Ascend mixes a strong soundtrack with bass-heavy gunfire and subtle sounds for in-game alerts. Speakers which can't cope may exhibit distortion in the output sound in such a way as to make it inaudible even when the volume of in-game noise should still allow it to be heard. Similarly, heavy bass bias equalisation can also render mid-range frequencies inaudible.

The SOLO7C's dealt very well with our gaming tests, in particular the more cinematic Witcher and Bastion, which rely less on surround-sound positioning for gameplay than FPSers. Tribes: Ascend performance was also good; lack of positioning information hampered gameplay somewhat but sound was crisp and clear throughout. Subtle audio indicators, such as the footsteps of the stealthy Infiltrator class, were picked up without difficulty. Bass reproduction was punchy without drowning out mid-tones, allowing the clear distinction between types of gunfire.

Whilst directionality for the SOLO7's is about as good for stereo speakers as you're likely to see, the lack of surround-sound may be an issue for hardcore gamers who favour first person shooters most of all. Those who lean toward RPGs and Driving Sims however should appreciate the clarity over the mixed benefit of hearing what is behind you.

Music

The gaming tests indicated a great bass response, but doesn't tell a lot about more general playback of high-quality audio. For those who want to use the speakers for more general-use we played a number of different musical genres, from Bach's Classical Toccata and Fugue in D-minor to some gratuitous Dub-Step, and listened for clarity at higher volumes.

The more high-frequency classical music was extremely clear in the main, though the SOLO7C's default bias towards heavy bass output made low-frequency sound a little too punchy and aggressive. Simply turning down the bass a little via remote amply dealt with this issue, smoothing out the bass response for a much more pleasant experience overall.

More bass-oriented dance music was obviously well served by the SOLO7C, even at default settings. We found that there was no real need to change the balance during playback of this music style, though of course with personal preference your mileage my vary. The slightly impaired range on bass was noticable as a slight lack of clarity at low frequencies, but not enough to make playback any less than average to good.

Vocals on the majority of pop and rock tracks were crisp and clear so long as bass bias was turned down a little and treble up a touch. Though the default setting is servicable, this sort of on-the-fly adjustment is where the SOLO7C's come into their own; the remote turns what could be a quite involved process through your PC's audio output properties into a simple button-push.

As volume increased playback clarity remained good, at least up to levels which would probably deem you a neighbourhood nuisance rather than musical aficionado.


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